by Tim Storhoff
Forty-two students from across Florida competed in Tallahassee on Saturday, March 1 for the Florida Poetry Out Loud State Finals. This year, the Poetry Out Loud program in 28 of Florida’s counties assisted more than 15,000 secondary-level students in learning about poetry in their classrooms. The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs oversaw outreach to schools and communities around the state spanned many of Florida’s school districts and regions.
The Poetry Out Loud competition begins at the classroom level. Winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to the state competition in Tallahassee. Each state winner ultimately competes in the National Finals in Washington, D.C. Teachers at more than fifty Florida high schools completed this program through to the end, and forty-two schools were represented in the State Finals competition.
The photos below depict the exciting and poetry-filled day these students had.
Forty-two students from across the state who won the individual competitions at their own schools came to Tallahassee and competed on March 1.
The competition was held at the R.A. Gray Building in downtown Tallahassee.
As this schedule of events shows, students had a full day.
All students recited a poem in the first and second round. Cassidy Camp of Coral Shores High School in Monroe County presented “Baudelaire” By Delmore Schwartz in the first round.
Judges included faculty from Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. They evaluated the students in six different areas: Physical Presence, Voice and Articulation, Dramatic Appropriateness, Level of Difficulty, Evidence of Understanding, and Overall Performance.
The event was hosted by Sandy Shaughnessy, Director of the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.
Students read poems on multiple themes and from various countries and parts of history. In the first round, Kamarr Le’Vere of Wekiva High School recited “April Love” by Ernest Dowson, who lived from 1867 to 1900.
While students weren’t on stage reciting their poems, they spent much of their time in the green room hanging out and rehearsing for the next round.
After the first two rounds, judges selected ten students to read a third poem in the final round.
In the third round, Savannah McCord from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind presented William Blake’s “A Poison Tree” in American Sign Language.
This year a new award was added to the state finals, and the Muse Award was given to David Luciemable of North Fort Myers High School. This award was given to the student whose passion and engagement with poetry stood out during his or her recitation.
Honorable mentions were awarded to Desirae Lee (left), a senior at Stanton Prepatory School in Duval County and Baxter Murrell (right), a sophomore at Winter Park High School in Orange County.
Third place was awarded to Jillian Miley, a sophomore at Spruce Creek High School in Volusia County.
Second place was awarded to Christell Roach, a senior at Miami Arts Charter School in Miami-Dade County. Roach will receive a $100 cash prize and Miami Arts Charter School receives $200 for their poetry collection.
First place was awarded to Emily Rodriguez, a senior at Academy of the Holy Names in Hillsborough County. Rodriguez will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete for a total of $50,000 in awards, scholarships and school stipends. The National Finals will be held April 28 – 30. In addition, Rodriguez will receive a $200 cash prize, and Academy of the Holy Names will receive $500 for the purchase of poetry books.
Following the competition, students and their families returned to the green room for a reception with staff and attendees.
You can learn more about Poetry Out Loud by visiting the national recitation contest’s website at poetryoutloud.org. Teachers interested in participating in Poetry Out Loud next year should contact the Florida Poetry Out Loud coordinator, Alison Schaeffler-Murphy for more information. Thank you to all of the partners and sponsors who made this event possible, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, Citizens for Florida Arts, Habana Boardwalk, Quality Inn & Suites, the Egg Express, the Apalachee Review, and Anhinga Press. We want to wish Emily the best of luck as she goes on to compete against all the other state champions in Washington, D.C. at the end of April!